Contrast of the King

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All Scriptures taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™

Meditate on the Battle Hymn

Psalm 22:25-31 New International Version (NIV)

25 From you comes the theme of my praise in the great assembly;
    before those who fear you[a] I will fulfill my vows.
26 The poor will eat and be satisfied;
    those who seek the Lord will praise him—
    may your hearts live forever!

27 All the ends of the earth
    will remember and turn to the Lord,
and all the families of the nations
    will bow down before him,
28 for dominion belongs to the Lord
    and he rules over the nations.

29 All the rich of the earth will feast and worship;
    all who go down to the dust will kneel before him—
    those who cannot keep themselves alive.
30 Posterity will serve him;
    future generations will be told about the Lord.
31 They will proclaim his righteousness,
    declaring to a people yet unborn:
    He has done it!

The Battle is Personal

Unless I wash you, you have no part with me

John 13:1-15 (NIV)

It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for

him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the

world, he loved them to the end.

2 The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas,

the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. 3 Jesus knew that the Father had put all

things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to

God; 4 so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel

around his waist. 5 After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his

disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

6 He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my

feet?”

7 Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will

understand.”

8 “No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.”

Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”

9 “Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head

as well!”

10 Jesus answered, “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their

6

whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.” 11 For he

knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was

clean.

12 When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to

his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. 13 “You

call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your

Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s

feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.”

Full Service- Maunday Thursday 2020

GOSPEL John 13:1-15 (NIV)

It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for

him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the

world, he loved them to the end.

2 The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas,

the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. 3 Jesus knew that the Father had put all

things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to

God; 4 so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel

around his waist. 5 After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his

disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

6 He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my

feet?”

7 Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will

understand.”

8 “No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.”

Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”

9 “Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head

as well!”

10 Jesus answered, “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their

6

whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.” 11 For he

knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was

clean.

12 When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to

his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. 13 “You

call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your

Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s

feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.”

7 Words from the Cross

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Good Friday 2018
Selected Texts

Luke 23:34 This is a word of forgiveness.

I want you to think of someone who has wronged you. What they did was not right, what they did was hurtful, what they did was inexcusable. They shouldn’t have done what they did, but they did and now you’re hurt. So what do you do? Make them pay? Make them grovel? Make them feel at least some of the pain they made you feel? Hold it over their head?

Do you see what Jesus is doing here? He’s being ruthlessly nailed to the cross. And to the people who are doing it, to the people who knew that they were being terribly cruel, who knew that they were committing a terrible injustice, who knew that what they were doing was wrong, what does Jesus ask? Jesus asks that God forgive them. That their sins would be washed away and that they would one day enjoy through faith eternal life in heaven. That’s God’s forgiveness! And that’s His forgiveness for you.

You see, no matter what horrible things someone has done to us, it’s not even a blip or a speck compared with what you and I have done to our God. We’re the reason he’s here, we’re the reason he’s suffering. And what has he done? Forgiven you. Forgiven me. Wants nothing less than heaven for you and me. How can we not forgive from the heart? How can we not let go of that which will eat us up and kill us from the inside if we don’t? How can we not want heaven for others as Jesus does for us? Because we’ve been forgiven, we can forgive others fully and freely.

Luke 23:43 This is a word of grace.

I’ve had my fair share of driving through blizzards, snow storms and icy roads. It’s not the most enjoyable, in fact, the older I get, the more responsibility I have, the more cautious I am when driving. Have you ever had a terrible trip somewhere but in the end said, “Well, all that matters is that I got there safely, I arrived, I reached the goal.”

Here’s a thief, his trip through life was awful. He did terrible things. He lost his way. In fact, he became the scum of the earth, the worst of the worst, no one wanted him, all people wanted was to rid the earth of him, so now he’s in excruciating pain and at the lowest point in his life and what does he do? He looks in hope and faith to Jesus and says, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” He trusts in Jesus as His King and Savior. And what does Jesus tell him? “Today you will be with me in paradise.”

We might want an easy, pain-free life. But God knows that it’s so often in pain and difficulty and challenge when we look to him. Life is only temporary. The things of this life will all pass away. So whether you have a pain-free or pain-filled life, in the end what really matters is where you end up in the end. So we pray, “Jesus remember me.” And because Jesus died on the cross to pay for every sin, he looks at you and says, “I tell you the truth, you will be with me in paradise.” Amen.

John 19:26-27 This is a word of personal care.

So try to put yourselves in Jesus’ position at this moment. Yes, it’s impossible, but just think. The terrible physical pain he is in, the emotional pain of the worst kind of rejection, the spiritual pain of suffering the sins of the world. And in the midst of all that, what does Jesus take time to do? Make sure that his mom’s physical needs are taken care of.

That tells us something about Jesus. He cares. He cares for all of you. No, he doesn’t promise you a healthy, wealthy, and wise life, but he does promise to care for you. He will do what we need him to do. If he was willing to die for you and me, do you think he’ll be willing to get us through tomorrow? Do you think he will take care of that thing you fret about? Or that thing that keeps you up at night? Jesus not only died for you, but He cares for you. Amen.

Mark 15:34 This is a word of horror.

From noon to three the sky went black. Can you imagine? It went dark. Why? What happened on the earth was really a picture of what was happening deep within Jesus. The price of our sins is hell and when Jesus screams out “My God, my God why have your forsaken me?” He’s suffering hell.

Hell is described often in the Bible as the outer darkness, separation from the blessings of God. It’s eternal suffering. Now we might look at this and think, “Ok, well, Jesus just had to get through 3 hours of hell.” There’s no such thing as 3 hours of hell. You see, hell is eternal. And we can’t think in terms of eternity. The reason Jesus yelled out a terrorized scream was because he was suffering hell, he was literally suffering the ETERNAL suffering of hell, the combined total accumulation of hells that every person deserves.

He was in hell for you and for me. His punishment brought us peace. Because he was there, you never will be, you will never experience it, thank God for this word of horror. Amen.

John 19:28 – This is a word of fulfillment

Jesus was thirsty. The prophet David in Psalm 22 foretold that the Messiah’s strength would be dried up like a piece of pottery, his tongue stuck to the roof of his mouth. And so, in order to fulfill Scripture Jesus said, “My tongue is sticking to the roof of my mouth” “I’m thirsty”

Why would we be told this? I mean, with everything that’s going on, with everything that Jesus is suffering, why say he’s thirsty? What’s the big deal? It fulfilled Scripture. Over 1,000 years before it happened God had it prophesied that Jesus would be thirsty. Think about that- the most terrible and most tragic and most injust thing to ever happen in the world was happening and yet…there was a plan, God had already designed every thing. Do you think your life is out of control? It’s not out of God’s control. If God was in control then, he is certainly in control today.

John 19:30 – This is a word of full payment.

This word in the Greek is one little word “tetelesthai.”  It’s a word that could literally be translated “Paid in Full.”  What was paid in full?  Your sins, my sins, the sins of the world, paid in full.

Satan loves to accuse.  He loves to point the finger and say, “Look at all the horrible things you’ve done.  Look at all the horrible words you’ve spoken.  Look at your horrible mind full of anger, greed, lust, selfishness…do you really think you’ll end up in heaven?”

We get to respond with “it is finished” “paid in full.”  It may be little in length, but its huge in impact.  Nothing less than the FULL payment for ALL of the sin of ALL of the world.  And if the sins of ALL the world have been paid for, then your sins have been paid for.  In full.  It’s true now; it’s true forever!

Luke 23:46 – This is a word of peace.

Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death. That moment you will have to face if Jesus doesn’t return sooner: death. Frightening, if we were unsure about what came next. But for us its just a sleep. We know what Jesus did to death. So that we might have peace at our last moment Jesus spoke these words at his last moment. He didn’t need to speak. He could have whispered. No. He spoke to be heard. We’re told Jesus called out in a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”

Why a loud voice? Why shout? Because He wanted us to know what He’s done to death. At your last hour, when the devil tries to point his bony little finger, tries to convince you that Jesus didn’t do enough for you, tries to convince you that Jesus didn’t pay all your sins, tries to insert a little doubt, remember Jesus’ words- spoken with a loud voice.

He suffered hell, he completed the full payment for all sins, he knew that paradise awaited him. And so that you might assured at your dying breath that heaven is your home, he called out in a loud voice, “Father into your hands I commit my spirit.”

 

Why do you celebrate?

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Palm Sunday
Matthew 21:1-11

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! In the name of Jesus, dear friends in Christ,  Celebrations are a big part of life, aren’t they? What do you celebrate? At the end of the month we’ll have 4 confirmations and there’s going to be celebrations. Next month there’s going to be graduations and there’s probably going to be celebrations. We have birthday parties where we celebrate a specific person. We have wedding celebrations, anniversary celebrations, retirement celebrations, championship celebrations, grand opening celebrations. I think it’s safe to say that we humans enjoy celebrating. But, how often do you just celebrate to celebrate? Do you ever celebrate for no reason? There’s almost always a reason behind a celebration, there’s something that is happening that is causing your celebration.

But maybe you’re thinking to yourself right now, “Celebrate? Celebrate what? I have nothing to celebrate. I have no reason to celebrate. My life stinks right now.” But if you’re saying that you’re not celebrating not because you have nothing to celebrate but because you’re not celebrating the right things. Or maybe you’re saying to yourself, “You’re right I’m celebrating! I’m celebrating my children, my achievements in life, my promotions, my friends, etc.” But if you’re saying that you may be celebrating but you’re celebrating the wrong things. So, why are you celebrating?

We see people in our text celebrating. Palm Sunday is always kind of a strange day. We’ve been in the season of Lent for the last 5 ½ weeks. Lent is a time when we reflect on the sufferings of our Savior, we remember what our sins cost our Savior, we’re sorrowful over sin. We wear black, our songs are more mellow and sorrowful, our joy is somewhat muted.  And we know how this coming week is going to end. We remember how Jesus was betrayed on Maundy Thursday, how the disciple abandoned him, then on Good Friday we’re going to see Jesus nailed and crucified, die and be buried. But then here we are on Palm Sunday and…we’re celebrating!

Palm Sunday was an incredible event. Thousands of thousands of people came to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. For what I read the normal population of Jerusalem was around 20-30,000 normally, but at the time of the Passover the population swelled to some 200-300,000 people. And when you’re coming to Jerusalem from the west, you come over the Mount of Olives and all of a sudden- there’s Jerusalem! Right in front of you! And here’s Jesus. He has just days earlier raised Lazarus from the dead and the news spread. And it wasn’t the only thing that Jesus had done. Jesus had done all kinds of miracles, healing the sick, making the paralyzed walk, the blind see, feeding 5,000, then feeding 4,000, so thousands and thousands of people knew about Jesus, heard about him, and now he’s coming to Jerusalem! Can you sense the excitement in the air? Throngs and throngs of people lining the streets, laying their garments on the road, cutting down palm branches to lay on the road. Can you picture it? They’re celebrating!

But why are they celebrating? What’s the reason they are celebrating? The crowds are shouting “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” They are praising and hailing Jesus as the long promised Messiah riding into the Holy City at none other than the very time when they are commemorating the glorious deliverance that God brought about when He brought their ancestors out of slavery in Egypt. Could it be that they were thinking that Jesus was going to begin a wonderful and powerful earthly kingdom? Could it be that they were thinking that now they could have a king to feed them with free food, heal all their sicknesses, free them from the Romans and give them a wonderful life? Could it be that they were expecting a king like King David? We know that the disciples had their own misunderstandings. James and John wanted to sit at the right and left in Jesus’ kingdom, Peter wanted Jesus to have nothing to do with suffering and crucifixion. Could it be that they are celebrating but for the majority they are celebrating for the wrong reason, they are celebrating an earthly kingdom? By the end of the week the crowds won’t be shouting “Hosanna!” They’ll be shouting, “Crucify!”

And what about us? Why do we celebrate? Why are we celebrating? Or, why are we not celebrating? What are our reasons for celebrating or what are our reasons for not celebrating? You see, we aren’t much different from the crowds of people here. We, too, are by nature sinful and therefore also selfish. We want what’s best for us, we want things to go our way, we want life to be on our terms, we want life to meet our expectations. And so, when life goes according to our wants and desires- we celebrate. But then when life goes opposite of what we want – we refuse to celebrate. And I’m not talking about being happy all the time. I’m talking about celebrating as in singing God’s praises, praising, honoring, glorifying God – do we do that in the bad and in the good times? Or are our hearts selfishly focused on this life, this world, and our own expectations? Do we celebrate the wrong things and fail to celebrate the right things? Are we just as fickle as a Peter? Praising Jesus on Sunday and denying him with our words and actions on Thursday. Are we just as fickle as this crowd? Praising him on Sunday and abandoning him on Friday?  We don’t deserve to celebrate- we deserve to mourn, to cry, to weep because the only thing we deserve from this King the King is to be separated from him forever in hell.

But then there’s Palm Sunday. Jesus rides into Jerusalem not on a warhorse or a stallion, but humbly and gently, meekly and lowly. He came to Jerusalem not to claim a throne, but to a climb a cross. He came not to drive out the Romans, but to drive out sin, death, and hell forever. He came to do exactly what they and us were singing: Hosanna. It’s a Hebrew word that means “save us.” That’s exactly what we needed Jesus to do- to save us, to pay for our sins in full, to save us not from the Romans, but from eternal damnation. And that’s why Jesus rode in to Jerusalem.

And there’s more reasons to celebrate- right here we see them!  What do we see first?  As Jesus is coming to the village of Bethphage close to Jerusalem, he sends two of his disciples into the village.  Why?  Because Jesus tells them at once they will find a donkey and a colt there and the Gospel writer Luke adds that the colt is one on whom no one has ever ridden.  How did Jesus know those things?  Jesus is all-knowing and he’s showing that to his disciples.  And is that not something to celebrate?  Jesus knows all things.  That means He knows your life.  Jesus knows what’s coming in my life.  Jesus knows when the challenges are going to come, the good times are going to happen.  Jesus knows how he will use each thing that happens in my life to serve my good.  That’s something to celebrate!

Look at something else here when Jesus directs those disciples He tells them when they get to the donkey and her colt, “If anyone says anything to you, tell him that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.”  Literally the Greek says, “The Lord has need of them.”  The Lord has a need!!  And what does he need?  A donkey?  Really!  Think about that!  What amazing humility and lowliness!  The Lord…has lowered himself to what extent?  That he has need of a donkey!

But it was all according to God’s plan: “Say to the Daughter of Zion, ‘See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”  Our God rides into Jerusalem not in pomp and glory and strength and might, but in lowliness and with gentleness.  Is that something to celebrate?  For sinful human beings like you and me, absolutely.  For God could deal with us with anger and power and give us what our sins deserve.  But he doesn’t.  He deals with us with gentleness and graciousness.  While the crowds are celebrating and cheering, Jesus however remains focused and keeps his sight on one place, the cross, to go to the cross and pay for the sins of the world.

And again that Jesus had his sights set on the cross to pay for the sins of the world and came riding into Jerusalem to do just that, that’s something to celebrate.  For when our final hour comes, when the end of our life comes, when we are getting ready to leave this world, what are we going to celebrate?  Are we really going to care about that promotion that we got at work?  Are we really going to care about that advanced degree?  Are we really going to care if we won the big game?  Is it really going to matter if we were healthy or unhealthy, popular or unpopular, rich or poor?  At our final hour we will see all of those things for what they really are – things of this earth, which are fine and good by themselves, but just that, things of this earth.  Rather, as death draws near it will be the eternal things that will matter to us.

And because Jesus came riding into Jerusalem that first Palm Sunday we have something worth celebrating!  For we have salvation, we have forgiveness, we have a God who deals with us with gentleness and grace, we have a God who knows our lives through and through and will continue to guide and direct things in order to bring us to the eternal mansions of heaven!  Celebrate that!

And so today we sing “Hosanna!”  And it’s incredibly fitting.  For “Hosanna” means “Save us, Lord.”  And that’s exactly what we need, we need a God to save us and that’s exactly what our King, our Lord, our Redeemer Jesus gently, humbly, knowingly and willingly rode into Jerusalem to do.  And that’s the real reason that we celebrate today, tomorrow, and forever.  Amen.

7 Words from the Cross

800px-CrucifixionSt.Matts

Luke 23:34 This is a word of forgiveness.

It’s a gut-wrenching image, isn’t it? Crucifixion is just ugly. The more you think about it, the more your stomach turns. The nails piercing the hands and feet. The body being hoisted up into the air and the weight of the body hanging by the nails through the flesh. It’s ugly. It’s ugly to think about whoever it is- even if it was a notorious criminal. But what about someone who had never done anything wrong, who was totally innocent, what terrible injustice!

And what does Jesus say? “Father, forgive them.” Literally, “Send their sins away so they won’t ever be remembered.” They didn’t ask for it and they didn’t deserve it. It’s so easy to hold on to wrongs committed against us, right? “I could NEVER forgive him for what he did to me!” “I hope she pays for what she did to me!” I think it’s safe to say that none of us have experienced such mistreatment and such injustice as this.

Thank the Lord for this word. Jesus prayed for the forgiveness of sinners and Jesus won the forgiveness of sinners. Jesus forgave you and me even our sins of being unwilling to forgive others from the heart. And since Jesus won your forgiveness fully and freely that means you too can forgive from the heart. Send the hurt, the pain, the anger away and forgive.

Luke 23:43 This is a word of hope.

What kind of life do you want? An easy life without many difficulties? A life where everything kind of falls into place for you? I think it’s safe to say that most of us don’t wish for a challenging, difficult, rough life, right? Is your life everything that you always dreamed it would be?

Two criminals, one on the right and one on the left. I think it’s safe to say that neither of them expected their life to end in excruciating pain on the cross, but it did. They were getting what their deeds deserved. Well, we know what Jesus wanted in life, his whole life was seeking and saving the lost and he’s still doing that here, isn’t he?

It’s in the midst of excruciating pain that this one criminal meets Jesus. He’s at the lowest point in His life and it’s then when he looks in hope and faith to Jesus, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

We might want an easy, pain-free life. But God knows that it’s so often in pain and difficulty and challenge when we look to him. Life is only temporary. The things of this life will all pass away. So whether you have a pain-free or pain-filled life, in the end what really matters is where you end up in the end. So we pray, “Jesus remember me.” And because Jesus died on the cross to pay every sin, he looks at you and says, “I tell you the truth, you will be with me in paradise.” Amen.

John 19:26-27 This is a word of personal care.

So try to put yourselves in Jesus’ shoes at this moment. Yes, it’s impossible, but just think. The terrible physical pain he is in, the emotional pain of the worst kind of rejection, the spiritual pain of suffering the sins of the world. And in the midst of all that, what does Jesus take time to do? Make sure that his mom’s physical needs are taken care of.

That tells us something about Jesus. He cares. He cares for all of you. No, he doesn’t promise you a healthy, wealthy, and wise life, but he does promise to care for you. He will do what we need him to do. If he was willing to die for you and me, do you think he’ll be willing to get us through tomorrow? Do you think he will take care of that thing you fret about? Or that thing that keeps you up at night? Jesus not only died for you, but He cares for you. Amen.

Mark 15:34 This is a word of horror.

To turn your back on someone in anger. That’s what it means to “be forsaken.” God the Father turns His back on God the Son in anger. It is said that Martin Luther once spent an entire day, not hardly moving, not eating or drinking, almost as if he was in a trance, and when someone finally interrupted him he said, “God forsaking God…who could understand it?”

Here on the cross Jesus is literally suffering hell- the abandonment of God. It doesn’t matter who you are as long as you live on this earth you have no experience of hell. Hell is horrible and hell is what sinners deserve.

The devil likes to get us to downplay sin, like it’s not that big of deal. But sin is horrible. Sin has horrible effects. Because of your sin, because of my sin, you and I deserve to go to hell and be punished forever and ever! Yes, that lie you told causes you to deserve it, that little bit of selfishness, that quick flash of lust, of hatred, of greed, of laziness all of it is horrible, all of it causes us to deserve to go to hell. And hell is horrible. Hell is torment. Hell is fire. Hell is worms eating and never finishing. Hell is burning that never ends. It’s unimaginable! Jesus knew that it was hell for him or hell for us.

So He suffered it- in your place! What incredible love! Jesus caused the sins that you committed to be charged to His account! He suffered the wrath of God, He suffered being forsaken by God, He suffered hell…in your place! He felt it!

And you know what? Because Jesus suffered the pain of hell in your place, because he was forsaken by God, you and I will never be forsaken by God! Never experience hell. Thank God for this word of horror. Amen.

John 19:28 – This is a word of understanding.

Three o’clock in the afternoon.  In six hours he had suffered a world’s eternity of hells.  And Jesus was thirsty. Why was Jesus thirsty? You might think, well, of course he’s thirsty, look what he’s been through! Think a little deeper. It reminds us that Jesus is a real human being on that cross. Yes, He’s also God, but He’s also human, just like you. He’s a real human with real human needs, human hurts, human joys, just like you.

That means that the Savior who died for you knows you! Since He’s human he understands your hurts, understands your joys, understands your needs. Your God not only died for you but He can also relate to you fully because He’s also human, just like you.

John 19:30 – This is a word of full payment.

This word in the Greek is one little word “tetelesthai.”  It’s a word that archaeologists have found stamped on ancient invoices.  The word could literally be translated “Paid in Full.”  What was paid in full?  Your sins, my sins, the sins of the world, paid in full.

Satan loves to accuse.  He loves to point the finger and say, “Look at all the horrible things you’ve done.  Look at all the horrible words you’ve spoken.  Look at your horrible mind full of anger, greed, lust, selfishness…do you really think you’ll end up in heaven?”

We get to respond with one little word “it is finished” “paid in full.”  It may be little in length, but its huge in impact.  Nothing less than the FULL payment for ALL of the sin of ALL of the world.  And if the sins of ALL the world have been paid for, then your sins have been paid for.  In full.  It’s true now; it’s true forever!

Luke 23:46 – This is a word of peace.

So what do you want to be able to say at the very end of your life?  What would you like your very last words to be?  I can’t think of a better choice than the words that Jesus spoke: “Father, in your hands I commit my spirit.”

Can we die with those words on our lips?  More importantly, can it be more than just words?  Can we die with the confidence that when we leave this world, God will welcome us into heaven eternally?

Thank God, the answer is, “Yes!  Absolutely!”  All these words have guaranteed it!  Remember, Jesus didn’t say “It’s started.”  He said, “It’s finished.”  He didn’t just suffer physically, he suffered the full pains of hell.  All of it was done in your place.  You are saved.  Heaven has been won for you!  And God’s given it to you in your baptism, in His Word, and in His Supper.

And so, when your last hour comes, you can say and mean it: “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit”  That’s a word of peace.  Amen.

The Blood of the Covenant

Covenant

Maundy Thursday 2016
Jeremiah 31:31-34

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, in the name of Jesus, friends in Christ, what is a “covenant”? That term is used all over Scripture, but it’s not something that we use a whole lot in our day to day lives, right? Perhaps we could think of a covenant as being something like a two sided contract that determines a relationship between two parties. We do have contracts in our society. If you contract someone to build a house for you, what you are saying is that you will pay a certain amount of money and the contractor will purchase the materials and hire the workers to build your home. So, in the end you get a home and they get money. It’s a two sided covenant. What about a one-sided covenant? Perhaps the closest thing in our world to a one-sided covenant is an infant child. The mom goes through a lot of pain to give the child birth, feed the child, nourish the child, protect the child, take care of the child and often at a lot of work and expense. What does the child offer the parent? The child isn’t going to offer emotional support, financial support, physical support. In a way it’s a one sided covenant because even in our society it’s still viewed as a deplorable crime for a parent to neglect or abandon an infant child.

Now, in Scripture there’s all kinds of “covenants.” There are covenants between two parties of people, there are two sided covenants between people and God – where both have a responsibility, and there’s unilateral or one-sided covenant where God promises something despite the action or non-action of people. It’s such a new covenant that God is promising in this text. But first we have to understand the old covenant.

One of the most important covenants was the covenant God made at Mt. Sinai with the Israelites- this covenant described how God was going to interact with his old covenant people. After God had wondrously led the Israelites out of their slavery in Egypt they assembled at Mt. Sinai and God made a covenant with them. It was a conditional covenant – He would be their God, their Protector, He would guarantee a great future for them- the condition was that the Israelites would remain faithful and totally consecrated to Him and live by all His commands. In a way, God treated them like children- he spelled everything out for them. And to ratify this Sinai covenant Moses took blood from young bulls and half of it he sprinkled on the altar offering it to God, the other half he sprinkled onto the bodies of the people (Exodus 24). That ratified this old covenant.

But this conditional Old Covenant was always meant to be temporary. They had to repeat all these offerings and sacrifices over and over again. It was also meant to keep the OT people separate and distinct from all other nations until the promised Savior would come. It also, in a way, showed that it was impossible to earn God’s love by obedience. There was just almost this impossible list of rules, regulations, laws, and commands. Imagine living as an Old Testament believer- almost every aspect of your life was regulated from the food you ate to contact with dead bodies to how to clean mold or mildew!

Now, we have to keep in mind that the way of salvation, however, is exactly the same in both the old covenant and the new. In the OT a person was saved exactly like a person is saved today: through faith in Christ. It’s just that the OT person looked ahead to the Savior, while the NT person looks back to the Savior who has come. But God understood the human weaknesses and tendencies to sin, so in the old covenant, in the old way that God interacted with people, He provided a ton of pictures for people of what forgiveness looks like. They had all these sacrifices and offerings which pointed ahead to a future sacrifice and offering and assured repentant sinners that they were forgiven by God.

So, the Old Covenant was: obey me, keep my commands and laws, and God will protect you and you’ll live long in the land. But the people broke God’s covenant with them. Instead of sacrificing to God, they sacrificed to idols and false gods, they abandoned God, didn’t keep His commands. That’s what was happening at the time of Jeremiah –and because they broke the Old conditional covenant- the people were on the verge of experiencing the most severe covenant curse – their land was about to be destroyed and they were about to be hauled into captivity in Babylon.

So, in the midst of all of this, God promises a “new covenant.” A different covenant, a new way He is going to interact with His people. It is not conditional, it is unconditional and unilateral. It is an unconditional promise of God to the unfaithful Israelites.

We live in the new covenant. But do we sometimes think that church, religion, the Bible is all about following rules and laws? There are two pitfalls we can fall into. On the one side we could view God’s moral laws as burdensome- “Ugh, all this stuff about sexual immorality, coveting, honoring God by hearing His Word – it’s burdensome! Why can’t I just do what I want?” Or, on the other hand we could view keeping God’s moral laws as a way to deserve God’s blessings, like “As long as I do this, as long as I go to church, as long as I’m good, God will have to reward me and give me the things in life I really want.” But both are wrong.

You see, the new covenant is totally different. He’s going to put His law in our minds and write it on our hearts. What does that mean? This is a different covenant. It’s not about outward obedience but heart transformation. There are no rules, or laws, or commands that have to be kept. It’s about the heart, trust, believing. The center of this new covenant is “I will forgive their wickedness and remember their sins no more.”  When did that happen? It happened when Christ offered the one sacrifice that really matters. He offered the once-for-all sacrifice that pleases God and removes sin and guilt. His blood shed on the cross removes sin forever. The new covenant announces salvation that is complete, finished, and above all, free through Christ. The new covenant is forgiveness of sins.

In baptism God seals this new covenant to us because in it He gives us the Holy Spirit and forgiveness of sins and the faith to believe it. In baptism we hear this promise of God, “I forgive your wickedness and remember your sins no more.” But that’s not it! In further grace God shares the meal of the new covenant with us in the Lord’s Supper. He ratifies, seals this covenant of forgiveness with us. In the old covenant blood of bulls was sprinkled as an offering on the altar of God, in the new covenant Jesus sheds his blood on the altar of the cross, in the old covenant blood was sprinkled on the bodies of the people, in the new covenant God gives us his own body and blood personally in the Lord’s Supper. He ratifies this new covenant, He removes any doubts about His love for us, He comes to each of us personally to touch it, taste it, hear it, see it that we belong to him, we are one with him, all that is his is ours. When we receive the Lord’s Supper it’s a special assurance that we are the recipients of this new covenant- In the Lord’s Supper you receive the blessings of the New Covenant- the forgiveness of your sins. His lifeblood is our life.

In the new covenant God deals with us differently than in the old. Now God doesn’t have to beat you and tell you- now here are all the rules and laws you have to follow. Rather, God tells you what He’s done to save you and rescue you, so eternal life is yours. You know what that does? It sinks deep inside of you, in the Supper He gives you His own body and blood in a supernatural way with the bread the wine, and you literally cannot help but live a new life, a life of love! The new “law” is to live a life of love. And you want to! It’s not from a heart that’s enslaved but a heart that’s been set free, a heart that’s been forgiven.

So as you receive the Lord’s Supper this evening, receive forgiveness, receive the blood of the covenant, Jesus’ body and blood together with bread and wine that unites you with Jesus and transforms your heart to a live a life of love and service to God and others.